Italian Cuisine

Italian cuisine rates as many people’s favourite, and it is widely available in a great many countries around the world. Unfortunately, in many such countries less than desirable culinary tendencies have influenced the authenticity and simplicity of regional Italian dishes, and relatively few people get the opportunity these days to experience Italian cuisine as it is meant to be experienced. Even the simplest of pasta dishes, Spaghetti Pomodoro, tastes different in Italy, and around the various regions of Italy.
 
Produce is plentiful in Italy, and there are clear distinctions from north to south, and between coastal and mountain regions. Even more distinct from region to region are the various peoples, fashions, lifestyles, cuisine styles and cooking methods. For example, the dishes of the Lake District of the north are almost unrecognizable when compared to the dishes of Brindisi in the South. So, in this respect, the tapestry that is Italian cuisine as a whole is extraordinarily complex. Having said that, many individual Italian dishes are very straight forward and simple. However, the simplicity of these dishes is often lost through the neglect of basic traditional cooking techniques.
 
I have had many wonderful experiences in Italy, from the north to the coastal, to the southern, and of course the islands (the Island of Capri having been one of my favourites). Cooking authentic Italian cuisine for Italians in Italy was a wonderful challenge.
 
The flavours, textures and pairings are crucial, and there is not much room for experimentation. In any given place in Italy, there is only one way, the way, the way that Mama and her Mama cooked it, and so on. Needless to say, local and regional culinary tradition is very important and highly respected, and results in incredible variation among regional dishes. For example, Pizza Napoli (from Naples) barely resembles its counterpart found in Sicily. And within various regions, I loved learning the Italian way of pairing certain sauces with particular pastas, as well as some of the “secrets” of certain individual sauces.
 
Pomodoro, for example, a basic tomato sauce, uses one or more of many varieties of fresh tomato, depending on the pasta pairing, and each variety of tomato is cut and cooked differently, rendering slightly different flavors.
 
Bottom line: Having had the opportunity to cook for Italians in Italy was a fantastic opportunity and experience that left me with memories—and recipes—I will never forget!
 

The possible sample menu items are practically endless, so I have put together a list of traditional dishes just to give you some idea of what my recommendations might be:

 

Antipasti (all dishes are served cold)

Marinated Vegetables (e.g., Artichokes, Mushrooms, Zucchini and Aubergine)
Home-made Pizza
Bresola with Parmagianno & Arugula
Buffalo Mozzarella with Vine Ripened Tomatoes and Fresh Basil
Mixed Seafood Platter (including Fresh Marinated Fish, Mussels, Clams, etc.)
Ensalta di Pulpa (Fresh Octopus Salad, Acciaroli style)
Shrimp & Potato Croquette
Mixed Selection of Cured Hams (e.g., Serrano, Prosciutto,
San Danielle, Capicollo, Salami and Coppa)


Soups

Roasted Cherry Tomato & Basil Bisque (Sicilian)
Egg & Cheese Soup (Roma)
Pesto Minestrone (Genovese)
Fish Soup (Liguria)


Pasta, Gnocchi, Polenta & Risotto

Parpadella with Braised Rabbit & Tomato Sauce (Tuscany)
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Baked Vegetable Lasagna
Beef Cannelloni
Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce
Spaghetti al Vongola (Clams in White Wine)
Linguini with Fresh Basil Pesto, Green Beans & Potatoes (Genovese)
Wild Mushroom Taglliatelli (Tuscany)
Saffron Risotto with Mixed Seafood
Barolo Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto (Piemonte)
Firm Polenta Gratin
Soft Polenta with Wild Mushrooms (Tuscany)


Meat

Osso Bucco (Braised Veal in Tomato Sauce)
Veal Milanese with Lemon Caper Sauce (Milano)
Pork in Marsala & Juniper Berry (Sicily)
Pork Saltimbocca with Port and Sage Sauce
Chicken Chianti with Red Pesto & Grapes (Tuscany)
Spicy Devilled Chicken Skewers (Southern)
Rabbit Cattatori with Black Olives, Capers & Tomato Sauce (Northern)


Fish

Fresh Sole with Sweet & Sour Sauce (Venezia)
Fresh Tuna with Tomato & Mint (Coastal)
Stuffed Swordfish Rolls with Tomato, Caper & Olive (Coastal)
Stuffed Baby Squid with Lemon Butter Sauce (Acciaroli)
Pan Fried Red Mullet with Basil, Lemon & Orange (Capri)
Whole Prawns in Spicy Garlic, Parsley & Lemon Sauce (Coastal)
Baked Mussels & Clams with Garlic Herbed Crust (Coastal)


Dessert

Tiramisu (Southern Style-and Moist!)
Apple Cake (Genova)
Peaches with Amaretti Stuffing
Chocolate Salami
Layered Candied Fruit Ricotta Cake (Sicily)
Fresh Vanilla Bean Panacotta
Baked Sweet Raviolis